CANTON, N.Y. — The game was sloppy, the goals were ugly and the home team didn’t show up until the second period.
But in this heated battle that at times hardly looked like a late-season contest, the homestanding St. Lawrence Saints kept themselves in the ECAC playoff race with a 3-2 win over cold-shooting Dartmouth Friday night in front of 2,385 fans at Appleton Arena.
SLU (10-19-2, 8-11-2) took only four perimeter shots in the first period but got better as the game went on, scoring once late in the second period and twice early in the third to build a 3-0 lead.
Jamie Herrington scored twice later in the third to pull Dartmouth (12-11-5, 9-7-5) within one, but the Saints held on to remain tied with Yale for the 10th and final playoff spot heading into Saturday night’s season finale.
“That’s a big win for us,” said Saints head coach Joe Marsh. “None of them have been easy. But we held on. I’m proud of the guys.”
The Saints’ win snapped their four-game winless slide and completed a sweep of the regular-season series with Dartmouth.
It also kept them in the running to make the playoffs for the 18th straight year.
“That was a big, desperate win for us,” Marsh said. “Dartmouth came back pretty hard at us. They’re the kind of the team where if they get that spark, they can bury you. So for us to pull it out was big.”
With the loss, Dartmouth (12-11-5, 9-7-5) dropped from second to third place in the standings, and its chances for home ice in next weekend’s best-of-three first-round playoff series remained in question.
Dartmouth has had chronic problems scoring. The visitors took 38 shots but netted only two goals for the fifth time in the last six games.
Including Herrington’s two goals in this one, the line of Chris Baldwin, Herrington and Lee Stempniak has now scored eight of Dartmouth’s last nine goals.
“My feeling is that we worked really hard. We got great offensive chances throughout the game,” Dartmouth head coach Bob Gaudet said. “We’ve got to keep chipping away. I’m frustrated because my guys are working hard, but they’re not getting the end result they want.”
The visitors had an abundance of chances in the first two periods, but continued to struggle with burying the puck. In total, Dartmouth took 25 shots in the opening 40 minutes, all of which were saved by Mike McKenna. McKenna finished the night with 36 stops.
Among Dartmouth’s best opportunities were a Chris Taliercio redirect of a Pete Summerfelt shot during a first-period power play; a series of 2-on-1 rushes; and a Kent Gillings laser from the left circle on which McKenna made a beautiful, sprawling glove save.
The Saints, meantime, stepped up after a quiet first period, taking 14 shots in the middle frame.
The home team grabbed a 1-0 lead 33.1 seconds before the second intermission, continually batting the puck at the net before Mike Muir converted on the second rebound, sneaking the puck inside the right post. Brother Sean Muir and Charlie Daniels earned assists on the goal.
SLU claimed a 2-0 advantage early in the third frame in shocking fashion. With his teammates making a line change, junior Jim Lorentz dumped the puck in from just inside the blueline. Lorentz’s dump-in went on net and apparently caught Nick Boucher (18 saves) unaware, because the puck slid inside the right post at 1:34.
After Lorentz’s goal, Gaudet replaced Boucher with sophomore Darren Gastrock, who played the final 17:21 and finished with six saves.
The one shot Gastrock didn’t save was an Andy Marchetti attempt off a rebound. Marchetti netted his fourth of the season at 6:17 to make it 3-0.
After that, Gaudet called a timeout and the Big Green began to control possession time once again.
Herrington netted two goals — his 10th and 11th of the season — in a two-minute, 18-second span to make it 3-2, but Dartmouth never completed the comeback. Herrington had the Big Green’s best chance in the final moments, breaking free before taking a point-blank slapshot from the slot.
But McKenna made the save and SLU held on for the win.
“I had a lot of chances tonight. I think I should have had four or five goals,” Herrington said. “Only two went in, though. We need more than that.”
The Big Green closes its season Saturday night at Clarkson, while the Saints will host last-place Vermont.